While many business leaders are excited to return to hosting in-person events, the reality is that planners will need to do more to bring people back through those doors. According to the American Express Meeting and Events 2022 forecast, 81% of all upcoming events will likely include an in-person component. Meanwhile, attention spans have dropped, while consumer expectations for quality have never been higher. Let’s face it: attendees don’t want to sit for seven hours in “receive mode” anymore. The landscape for in-person events is anything but what we remember from a pre-pandemic world, and it’s important to anticipate those new demands. Successful events today require creating a unique experience that will make guests want to attend. If you are planning your first in-person event since the pandemic, here are five things you might have overlooked.
1. Give your audience an experiential event
Elevating the experience starts with thinking about what the room feels like when people first walk inside. The space should be enticing, with a focus on creating a full sensory experience that can only be enjoyed through an in-person event. Incorporate elements like lighting, audio, video, and work with the unique aspects of the actual event space to build an immersive event. Consider using dim lighting and natural elements to promote a welcoming – yet intriguing – event experience. This can engage your attendees without overstimulating an audience that is just returning to in-person events.
2. Invest in valuable content
Content—the education you’re sharing with your attendees—is the most powerful element of any event. It’s what attendees walk away remembering, it’s what they’ll share with others, and it’s why they’ll return (or not!) next year. When your event is over, the content shared continues the legacy and impact of your event.
Event planners should remember that each event is a valuable opportunity to generate original content. Take advantage of it by investing in impactful content. Ensure that the education your attendees receive is powerful and thought-provoking. Invest in speakers who excite audience members and will provide them with real value. And if you’re featuring the organization’s CEO or another internal speaker, help them craft their content and then coach them on how to present it effectively.
Focus on what key elements you want attendees to take away from your event and develop strategies around how the audience can best receive that information. Learn more about how to plan out your content in our related blog post, Stop Being Reactive With Your Creative Content.
3. Capture the content and use it to propel your event’s reach
Now that you’ve invested in high-quality content, you want to ensure that you maximize its benefits. Capture different elements of your content throughout your event and leverage them to continue the message and relevance of your event long after the last attendee leaves.
For instance, you can repurpose in-person content into:
- Short video clips;
- Highlight reels; and
- Blog posts.
And you can then feature this new material via your:
- Social media;
- Blog; and
- Email lists.
4. Reframe how you understand in-person and hybrid events
As mentioned above, people expect even more as they return to in-person events. You are no longer running a giant meeting when hosting an event—you’re putting on an entire production. The in-person audience should feel like they are attending a theatre production where everything from the check-in process to the music between presentations is part of a curated experience.
Likewise, the audience watching from home also deserves a special experience, ideally one that feels like a television broadcast. That means moving beyond a simple Zoom presentation to incorporate sophisticated audio, visual, and interactive components. Invite virtual attendees to submit questions during the presentations or encourage audience feedback through surveys and polls, and consider using technology to bridge the experience gaps between in-person and virtual attendees.
5. Expect to pay more (and budget accordingly)
Losing track of your budget can result in insufficient funds for crucial elements of your experiential design. When the focus is on creating a standout event with high-value content and an immersive experience, every aspect of your budget counts. To avoid any unwelcome surprises, plan on today’s events costing 2-3 times more than their pre-pandemic predecessors.
While the events industry might be returning to a new normal, several factors are still putting significant pressure on the cost of doing business:
- Increased expectations. All of the elements described above are required for a truly successful in-person event, but they bring a higher cost than events from previous years.
- Higher prices on goods and services. Costs have jumped due to ongoing supply chain issues and labor shortages.
- Hybrid events require additional resources. Creating a hybrid event means that you are hosting both a virtual and in-person event. You can’t shirk the virtual budget, either: with attendees expecting an experience that rivals an in-person event, you can anticipate spending more money on advanced technology and an experienced technical team to deliver that expectation.
- Attendees need to be reminded of the value of in-person. After two years of virtual events, now is a critical time to remind attendees just why these in-person events truly matter. Creating the experience that keeps them coming back next year comes with a higher price tag.
Hiring a production partner at the beginning of your planning process can help navigate these potential pitfalls while helping you deliver the most impressive experience within your budget. A production company will often have industry contacts and can negotiate lower rates with vendors. A production partner with experience hosting similar events to yours will already understand what you need, what issues to avoid, and how to best allocate resources for a maximum return on investment.
Don’t Be Left Behind as Events Move Forward
We might finally be returning to in-person events, but they won’t be the same events that we remember from 2019 and before. Expectations and costs are higher. Static lectures have given way to experiential events. Content is critical to success—as is finding creative ways to market it post-production.
There is a new normal for in-person events and planners need to be prepared. Working with an experienced event production company like Stagedge can mean the difference between a lukewarm event or your attendees returning next year (now with their colleagues in tow.) The old models for event production won’t work in a post-pandemic world. Let us deliver the experience that your attendees forgot was even possible.